School leavers shy away from courses tied to construction

POINTS requirements for most courses show that students are turning away from those tied to the dwindling economy, and construction in particular, opting instead for more general degrees.

Nearly half of all arts and social science degrees have had their points requirements rise since last year, following a slight rise in the proportion of Central Applications Office (CAO) applicants listing them as their first preference. One arts degree through Irish at National University of Ireland Galway is up 200 points to 505, possibly due to rising interest in translation jobs since Irish has become an official EU language.

NUI Maynooth assistant registrar John McGinnity said the strong rise in demand for arts reflects the fact that many students have chosen a broadly based degree during the economic downturn to allow them to choose from a range of work or further study options after they graduate.

“There has been strong demand for degrees in science, computer science, product design and venture management.

“It clearly indicates that students are seeking to develop knowledge in the areas identified by the Government for future skills and educational needs in the smart economy,” he said.

Despite a drop below 9% in the proportion of CAO applicants seeking entry to teacher training programmes, points on the vast majority of those degrees have gone up. This suggests higher-scoring school leavers are opting for teaching careers despite the reduced demand likely in the next few years because of education cutbacks.

Primary teaching degrees are typically up around five points on last year to a range of 465 to 480 points, although the 440 points needed for anybody seeking entry to Church of Ireland College of Education is 30 points more than in 2008.

At Mary Immaculate College in Limerick, where those being offered primary teaching degree places all have at least 480 points, many of them among the 0.3% of CAO applicants this year with the maximum 600 Leaving Cert points.

Following a spike in applications for science degrees, students needed more points than last year’s applicants on almost half of them and 31 courses’ requirements remain unchanged. Many programmes with the biggest points hikes are in physics or environmental sciences, with the biggest increase of 85 points seen for UCD’s general science degree.

The points needed for almost all nursing degrees are also up, although more than half of the 80-plus courses being offered are for mature applicants and the trends do not necessarily reflect the standard of school leavers seeking places. But for 14 of the 18 general nursing degrees open to Leaving Certificate applicants, entry requirements are up 25 to 55 points on last year.

Under the business and administration heading, points are up on more than one third of courses. There was a slight fall in the proportion of first preferences for business courses to just under one sixth of all applicants, possibly reflecting negative perceptions being created by the global economic downturn.

The cut-off points have fallen for almost half of around 115 level 8 courses under the engineering/technology category, and 25 have had their points requirements drop 25 points or more since last year. The notable falls include a 180-point drop to 350 points for manufacturing engineering with business studies at Dublin City University, and civil engineering at University College Dublin, for which Leaving Certificate students needed 410 points compared to 470 a year ago.

Conversely, however, electronic engineering with computers at NUI Maynooth and computer science, linguistics and French at Trinity College Dublin are up 130 and 120 points, respectively.

The legal profession has also been hit badly by the almost stagnant property markets, and this is reflected in both demand and cut-off points for entry on related degrees. The points for more than half of 33 level 8 law courses offering places are down, with BCL degrees at UCC and TCD down 25 points and the same programme at UCD down 30 points to 470.

Points for architecture in universities dropped by 20 or 30 points, although they were up 50 points for Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) Bolton Street’s degree. The built environment category, although only containing six level 8 degrees, has seen falls in all courses, with three DIT courses in property and construction economics down 50 or 55 points.

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